Monthly Archives: June 2020

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

It’s the little things that count—especially on a boat, and especially when they save water or space, and keep things cleaner and drier. I have four product recommendations to make more efficient use of a galley sink. Depending on your boat, the size and shape of your basin(s), and the configuration of your counter tops/cabinetry, you may not be able to implement all of these products, but they might give you some new ideas to try in your galley.

  1. Dri-Dek in the bottom of the sink.  We have a standard, stainless-steel, double-basin kitchen sink that Jay purchased at Home Depot or Lowe’s several years ago and mounted to our custom counters (plywood with teak veneer, coated with polyurethane). I like having separate places to wash and rinse/drain. Dri-Dek, which we also have in our cockpit, water-maker locker, food/drink lockers, and under our mattresses in the cabins, does an admirable job of creating airflow. It lasts forever and cleans up well with a spritz of bleach and a scrub brush. Made in Florida, interlocking tiles can be purchased directly from Dri-Dek or from Amazon ($4.76 per tile at Dri-Dek, with a minimum purchase of 12 tiles or $78.59/dozen at Amazon). They can be cut to whatever size you need.
  2. Water faucet with a pause button. We love our Ambassador Marine Trinidad Head/Shower Combo Faucet with Classic Sprayer (about $200 from Defender). It is expensive, but incredibly well-made, durable, and water-saving. We have three on our catamaran: one in the galley, one in the small port head (used mostly for hand-washing), and one in the large starboard forward head (providing daily showers for a crew of seven). We’ve had to order some replacement parts for repairs, but they have survived heavy use for about ten years.
Faucet with pause button
  1. Liquid soap dispenser. We added LDR 501 6520SS Deluxe Soap/Lotion Dispensers ($21 each at Amazon) to our galley sink and to the heads. They can be filled from the top and help keep the area around the sink tidy and dry. To save soap, we often water it down (2 parts soap to 1 part water).
  2. Filtered drinking water faucet. Whatever your water source or storage tank material, this faucet, along with an accompanying under-sink charcoal filter, improves the taste and purity of your drinking water. This is a stainless steel, lead-free ESOW Kitchen Water Filter Faucet ($36.90 at Amazon), and what I love about it is the shape of the swivel-spout and the single-lever handle. Its high profile and variable pressure control make it so I can quickly fill a stock pot sitting on the counter or slowly fill an ice cube tray without splashing and wasting water.
Drinking water faucet and liquid soap dispenser

We provide a harsh testing environment for all sorts of home and boat products. Take Two has seen a lot of different household solutions implemented in the 12 years we’ve been aboard, and our testing team has ranged in age from newborn to adult. It is not made up of gentle, mild-mannered, careful people, either. One thing we’ve learned is that it’s better to spend a little more to get a quality product instead of wasting resources and leaving cheap, broken junk in our wake.

Pep Talk #17: Fish Out of Water

Flying Fish
Sam with a flying fish found on deck during a passage.

Have you ever observed a goldfish in a bowl? It swims in circles, it examines (and sometimes nibbles at) the colored pebbles on the tank floor, swims in and out of its little plastic cave, eats food flakes off the surface and generally doesn’t seem to mind it’s surroundings, as long as someone keeps the bowl clean and feeds it. To me, it looks like an inane life—a fish can only be content with this small world because its brain is tiny and houses no ambition. And yet…

I am married to my high school sweetheart (together 27 years now), creative problem-solver, father of our five children, captain of our boat, database engineer/consultant…and introvert. His “office” for the last twelve years has been a 3’ x 4’ x 6’ shared pace in the fourth cabin on our boat—office by day, kid’s bunk by night. It’s not air-conditioned unless the generator is running or we’re living at a dock, but he seldom complains. He rarely leaves the boat, since the work he does for fun is in the same place as the work he does for a living; when he gets up from his computer, he might pick up a sander and go to work on our decks, or a screwdriver to rebuild a broken pump, or do something with one of the kids. He meets many of the requirements for happiness in a solitary life and fitness for living aboard a boat. He’s no brainless goldfish, but he is content with a self-contained life.

Of course, since opposites attract, I possess other, complementary traits, like an outgoing nature, a love of language, hospitality, and creativity (especially when shared). These traits are also helpful when living on a boat—when we get to a new place, I am the one who meets new people, figures out where to get things, who acts as translator if necessary, who invites friends for dinner and arranges get-togethers and field trips with other sailors. I am the ambassador. When I’m forced to curtail these social activities—due to long passages, isolated locations, bad weather, or a global pandemic that requires social distancing, this outgoing nature is quickly frustrated. I begin to view the “goldfish bowl” as a small, uncomfortable, limiting existence.

Occasionally, a pet goldfish will try to leave its watery habitat. It usually happens when the temperature is off or the tank is unclean, or if the fish is stressed or ill. It might jump out of its bowl, hoping to discover better conditions, only to find itself flopping around on the dresser, gasping for water. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it may discover too late that “there’s no place like home.”

Of course, I am not a fish, nor am I ready to “jump” because my social life has shrunk to a sunset happy hour with Jay on the back steps. Put in perspective with the real suffering of illness, poverty, and injustice, our mere discomfort does not merit complaint. If anything, now is the time to be grateful; we are healthy and safe, and the slower pace has been good for our family and our homeschool. But in addition to bemoaning the state of the world, I have also possessed the attitude of a spoiled brat; I confess to feeling discontented and ungrateful, to pining after something I can’t have right now, and to complaining about disrupted plans and lost opportunities. Without the normal rhythms of work and play, social activities and gatherings—some of which are, in truth, distractions—I am doing some soul-searching, and realizing that saying “God’s grace is sufficient” and living it are two different things (from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians 12:9). That verse continues: “His strength is made perfect in weakness,” but who wants to admit weakness? When the going gets tough, the tough are not supposed to act like toddlers, but sometimes they do. The verse finishes with, “therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

My main weaknesses consist of self-centeredness and a choice to focus on the wrong things. I have discovered in the last three months that the difference between a “good day” and a “bad day” is where I keep my focus. If I am using a screen as a substitute for time with a real person, if I am spending a lot of time looking at bad news, if I am giving way to feelings of loss, frustration, or anxiety, then I am heading for trouble and probably tears. Instead, if I wake up early and have my morning quiet time, if I am praying for those who are suffering, if I am counting my blessings, if I am truly present and willing to accept the gift of this day (whatever it holds), if I am investing in real relationships, then I am content. A simple change of focus makes all the difference.

Here are the things for which I am especially grateful today:

  • For my marriage of almost 23 years, for the daily sunset “date” Jay and I have set aside in order to give each other undivided attention, for Jay’s calm, steady, unflagging nature, and for his tireless patience with my ups and downs, and for his honesty and hard work.
  • For my children, who offer pearls of wisdom every time I stop to listen.
  • For my extended family, whether by blood, marriage, or “adoption,” who are encouraging and supportive, who will stop what they’re doing to talk or pray, who demonstrate what love is.
  • For the homeschool community and the sailing community—despite the curtailing of activities, there I find love and connection.
  • For the privilege of living and traveling on Take Two, for all we have learned while living aboard, and for friends from around the world.
  • For the simple things—a safe place to sleep, food to eat, fresh air and sunshine, health, time with family, the gift of life itself.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Philippi, Greece, offers this thought on contentment: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him (Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).  

Maybe, like Jay, you are a happy goldfish. Or, like me, you might be feeling sometimes like a fish out of water, gasping for community, struggling in relationships, and experiencing a mixture of sadness, fear, and anger about what’s going on in the world. Your situation might be worse, or it might be better. Whatever the case, we can all use our present circumstances to delve deeper into what it means to have faith, to be thankful no matter what, and to find strength in weakness.

Boys and Trucks

Boys and Trucks
Eli’s 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 and Aaron’s 1994 Ford F-150

We’re entering a new era as a family: our first two boys (or should I say, men?) have recently acquired their first vehicles. Both chose trucks.

Eli found a good used truck in the Keys and drove down with Jay to complete the purchase this week and bring it home. It resembles the truck Jay used to own.

Aaron has a Ford fixer-upper–something he used to talk about when he was a little boy. He’s good with his hands, loves tools, and wants to spend the time (under the truck) to make it his own.

We’re very pleased to see them taking steps toward independence and proud of both of them.

Around the World in 12 Weeks (Summer 2020)

Feeling trapped or sapped? Why not travel by map? Here’s a homeschool idea you might enjoy.

travel by map

I’ve been getting that familiar feeling of wanderlust. Take Two has been sitting for almost a year now, tethered to a mooring in the Florida Keys. We’ve used the time to visit family, catch up with old friends, build the cruising kitty back up, get our big kids more independent (driving, working, going to college classes, and planning for the future). While I recognize that this is what we came back from traveling to do, I miss the change of scenery and sense of adventure. With COVID-19, I haven’t even been able to satisfy the itch by taking road trips (the Keys were closed and I wasn’t sure if I could get past the road block to get back in.)

So I’m combating that stuck-in-a-rut feeling by upping my homeschool game. If we can’t travel for real, why not travel in our imaginations? I’ve had these two books on the shelf since I was a public school teacher, and haven’t used them since the older kids were in elementary school. So I asked Rachel what she thought of “a trip around the world,” and she was game.

A Trip Around the World

We had just finished a Life of Fred math book, the last Adventures In Phonics spelling list, a chemistry curriculum, and world history up to the American Revolution. It felt like time for a break. So we looked at the world map, picked 12 countries, and set a course for a summer’s worth of geography-based learning. We invited a friend to “come along,” made up two notebooks full of maps, flags, and language lessons, created a global passport, and collected our first “stamp” on June 1.

Notebook and Passport

We have already “traveled” to Brazil and Kenya. While there’s been some push-back about the required journal entries, I’ve heard no complaints about coloring pages, virtual tours, or new recipes. The documentaries/movies we’ve found have been wonderful windows into places we’ve never visited in person.  I’m pleased to see the connections we’re already making between countries we chose at random, like the comparison between big cats (jaguars of the Amazon vs. leopards of the savannah), or the Portuguese exploration of both the East African and South American coasts.

Leopard journal entry

Last weekend, we made a Brazilian chicken pie, Empadão de Frango, and the traditional bite-size chocolate desserts, Brigadeiros, and enjoyed both while watching the 2016 film directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, Pelé: the Birth of a Legend. (Spoiler alert: Pelé himself makes a cameo appearance!)


Many recipes from around the world can be found online (I especially like those from the “Global Table Adventure” blog by Sasha Martin, author of Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness) and in a cookbook from my shelf, Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley.

We break down our “travel” week like this:

  • Monday: Watch introductory video (like Paul Barbato’s Geography Now or Expoza Travel on YouTube) while eating “airplane snacks.” Stamp passport. Color flag. Label map.
  • Tuesday: Begin Duolingo language lessons/notebook language activities. Take a virtual tour of landmark(s). Color a page from Around the World in 50 Pages, illustratedby Hasby Mubarok. Write five facts about the country in travel journal.
Around the World Coloring Book
  • Wednesday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a natural history video (by BBC or National Geographic). Choose an animal to write about in travel journal.
  • Thursday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a video on history of the country. Choose a person from that country and do a short biography.
Pele journal entry
  • Friday: Read a folktale, listen to music, or do an art project or craft.  
  • Weekend: Dinner and a movie! Find a family-friendly movie made in or about your country and cook a meal using authentic recipes.

So far, the geography studies have given fresh life to our homeschool, and by virtue of family movie night and international cuisine, the whole family is along for the ride.

Pep Talk #16: We Are Family

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain

Providencia, Isla de Colombia 2018

Something that travel has offered me is the chance to see myself as part of the human family, to go beyond labels of “white” or “American.” Making connections with locals in the places we traveled highlighted how much we humans have in common, despite differences in class, language, religion, appearance, and place of birth. We have been welcomed as friends by complete strangers, despite our awkwardness and our “otherness.” This reinforces our desire to do the same to others.

The kind of travel we do on our boat is not a vacation; we sail to a new place to learn about life in another corner of the world, to meet new people, and to hopefully go beyond the superficial. While we enjoy it, we also find it to be humbling, difficult, and eye-opening. And even the chance to live this way is a privilege of which we have become more and more aware.

Upon our return to the United States, we realized something else that travel offers: the chance to see our own country with new eyes. I hear music and language, see faces, and interact with people in a completely new way. I was raised to love and accept everyone as a child of God. I was raised to respect people even when I disagreed with them. While I may not have been “blinded” by racism or classism, I have had tunnel vision. I have made certain assumptions, had prejudices, and followed patterns of thought that put people in a box or even made them invisible. I probably still do; and will likely spend the rest of my life making course corrections as cross-cultural relationships broaden my horizons.

Tachi and Tanya, Providencia, Isla de Colombia
My friend Tachi , Providencia 2018

I am disheartened by the division I see in our country—by the ignorance, disrespect, and open hatred. Even among those who agree that there is one God, one faith, and one love that binds us together, there is disunity. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Those who claim Jesus as the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, must grapple with what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And who is my neighbor? His parable of the good Samaritan answers that question by challenging racism and bigotry explicitly; he’s calling his listeners out on their hypocrisy.

It is easier to stand on the sidelines and criticize something as obviously wrong as looting and vandalism, to point out how it doesn’t honor the dead or further a just cause. It is much harder to see that the rage that leads to social breakdown is a result of systemic injustice, of our own actions or inaction; harder to admit that “there but by the grace of God go I” (John Bradford). If I had been born in other circumstances, I might be the one lighting fires. The potential for chaos exists in every human heart.

But so does the potential for compassion, communication with respect, and love. Do not lose hope. If you believe we can be governed by something beyond raw emotions, if you believe that God can set us free from all the things that bind us (including our own ignorance, bias, and past mistakes) and make us into a family, if you pray “Your kingdom come,” if you are willing to cross cultural barriers to form authentic relationships, then there is no reason to despair. I retain the hope that one day we will break down the walls that separate us, that we will treat others the way we want to be treated, that we will lay down our lives—our agendas, our judgments, our pride—for our friends. Hate is real, but so is love.

Mi hermano Deibi and kids
My “hermano” from Venezuela, Deibi, 2017

As a starting point, I can recommend these three books from different genres that have caused me to stop and question my own thinking and to see life from another vantage point:

  • Jodie Piccoult’s novel, Small Great Things
  • Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime
  • Spencer Perkins’ and Chris Rice’s non-fiction book, More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel 

Silicone in the Galley

On a boat, silicone is often used as a sealant, adhesive, or lubricant, to waterproof a kitchen sink, bed a hatch, or grease an O-ring, respectively. But food-grade silicone is great in the galley, too.

Having a galley on a boat instead of a kitchen in a house means finding ways to simplify and maximize storage space. I love to bake, but don’t have room for all the specialized equipment I used to own. For example, I replaced bulky muffin tins with silicone baking cups, which take up very little space when nested.

silicone muffin cups

I also have a silicone bundt pan, purchased by my friend Jennifer on S/V Cerca Trova. We were trading it back and forth all winter in a bundt-cake bake-off; it was a win-win arrangement (or should I say, gain-gain?) where she baked a cake, took two pieces and gave us the rest, then lent me the pan so I could bake a cake and give away two pieces. It does a great job, and stores small.

silicone bundt pan

I also have silicone baking sheets in two sizes, which makes cookie-baking a snap. I also use them to bake rolls, biscuits, scones, pita bread, and Stromboli. They’re a good replacement for parchment paper, which often has plastic or chemical components.

silicone baking mat

In the freezer, I use washable/reusable silicone storage bags, which replace plastic gallon zipper bags. They are sturdy and stand up better than plastic.

silicone storage bag

Our silicone-topped OXO spill-proof ice cube trays, which have lasted for years, provide us with ice for frozen drinks.

Cruiser Diamonds

And when we have extra, we can pour smoothie into our silicone popsicle makers for a frozen treat. These were a gift-that-keeps-on-giving from my friend Annie on S/V Sea Trek.

silicone popsicle maker